Holiday Recommendations: Day One

The holidays are coming up fast, and if you’re anything like us, you’re swamped. Never fear! Martin and Associates is here with our favourite books of 2018 to help you hone in on the perfect gift for everyone on your list. Grab them all in one trip to your favourite local indie bookstore, and you’ve got one less thing to worry about as the weather gets colder.

Michael’s pick: Open Your Eyes by Paula Daly (Grove / Atlantic, 9780802128454)

Perfect for: the domestic suspense fan

Jane Campbell and her husband Leon are writers living in suburban Manchester with their two young children. Leon’s writing career is flourishing with the success of a mystery series, however Jane’s manuscripts have yet to find a publisher. Paula Daly’s fifth novel Open Your Eyes is a clever and evenly paced thriller that defines the expression of life imitating art. The seemingly happy couple and stable family life is covered with a thin veneer hiding their debt and personal secrets. Jane and Leon avoid confrontation and speaking of their dire financial situation. They maintain the illusion of life as normal, Jane teaches creative writing at a local college and cares for their two young children, while Leon works on the next novel in his mystery series.

The bubble bursts on their perfect life when Leon is brutally attacked in the driveway as their children wait quietly in the car. The nightmare for Jane begins when she finds her husband near death, becomes a suspect in the crime and learns her family is nearly bankrupt. With her husband in a coma, Jane must open her eyes to the problems in her life, as well as the secrets that have been kept from her.

Open Your Eyes is an unsettling whodunit about the illusions of a perfect marriage that confirms Paula Daly as a writer at the forefront of domestic suspense.

Margot’s Pick: The Gunners by Rebecca Kauffman (Counterpoint, 9781619029897)

Perfect for: readers who appreciate a complex character, stories about friendship

In The Gunners, Rebecca Kauffman introduces us to Mikey Callahan, a thirty-year-old who is suffering from the clouded vision of macular degeneration. He struggles to establish human connections—even his emotional life is a blur. As the novel begins, he is reconnecting with “The Gunners,” his group of childhood friends, after one of their members has committed suicide. Sally had distanced herself from all of them before ending her life, and she died harbouring secrets about the group and its individuals. Can The Gunners, prompted by Sally’s death, find their way to a new day? The core of this adventure, made by Mikey, Alice, Lynn, Jimmy, and Sam, becomes a search for the core of truth, friendship, and forgiveness.

A quietly startling, beautiful book, The Gunners engages us with vividly unforgettable characters, and advances Rebecca Kauffman’s place as one of the most important young writers of her generation. As Margot puts it, it’s a beautiful combination of St. Elmo’s Fire and The Big Chill. 

Bronte’s Pick: Swallow’s Dance by Wendy Orr (Pajama Press, 9781772780628)

Perfect for: an 8-12 year old history buff or mythology lover.

In the myth-rich culture of Bronze Age Crete, a volcano eruption turns an elegant civilization upside down, forcing them to muster their strength and redefine “home.” Leira is about to start her initiation as a priestess when a violent earthquake leaves her home—and her family—in pieces. And the earth goddess hasn’t finished with the island yet. Leira and her family flee across the sea to Crete expecting sanctuary, but another volcanic eruption throws the entire world into darkness. After the resulting tsunami, society descends into chaos; the status and privilege of being noble-born are reduced to nothing. With her injured mother and elderly nurse, Leira must find the strength and resourcefulness within herself to find safety and ensure the survival of her loved ones.

This is a thrilling middle-grade, Bronze Age survival story from Wendy Orr, the award-winning author of Dragonfly Song and Nim’s Island. This piece of history comes alive with enchanting characters and beautiful descriptions of scenery.

Stay tuned for our next three picks!

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